Trump's bizarre obsession with Diet Coke reveals a major problem facing the soda giant
- President Trump drinks up to 12 cans of Diet Coke a day, according to a report by the New York Times.
- The president has previously mocked the brand, tweeting "I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke."
- Diet Coke sales have been declining for years.
- Coca-Cola is unable to make adjustments despite Diet Coke's struggles because of people — reportedly including Trump — who are dedicated to Diet Coke the way it is.
A report that President Donald Trump drinks up to a dozen cans of Diet Coke a day reveals a paradox that is plaguing one of Coca-Cola's most iconic brands
For the last few years, Diet Coke has been the weakest link in the company's cola lineup. In October, Coca-Cola reported brand's sales by volume declined in the mid-single digits last quarter. Industry publication Beverage Digest reported Diet Coke US sales by the dollar dropped 1.9% in 2016.
In many ways, Diet Coke doesn't fit health-conscious customers' needs in 2017. Americans are increasingly cutting sugar out of their diets, meaning that they're drinking less and less sugary sodas. However, shoppers remain suspicious of Diet Coke's use of artificial ingredients.
Trump provides a particularly notable case study, as both a Diet Coke superfan and someone who has helped perpetuate the drink's negative reputation.
In 2012, Trump tweeted: "I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke."
Donald Trump's Twitter
As seen by Trump's tweets, even people who might drink Diet Coke don't fully see the beverage as a healthy choice or trust the brand.
Swapping sweeteners does little to reassure customers. Diet Pepsi sales declined 7.2% in 2016 after the company tried to win over customers concerned about the ingredient aspartame by rolling out an aspartame-free diet cola.
"Diet CSD [carbonated soft drinks] sales were supposed to be the solution to the industry's calorie dilemma," Monica Kvamme, a consultant at Zenith Global Ltd, said at Beverage Digest's Market Smarts conference last week. "But, that was short-lived, as diet sales peaked in 2005 and have been falling ever since."
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Since 2005, diet soda sales have dropped a whopping 34%. By all counts, it's a struggling sector in the soda industry.
Yet, Coca-Cola has avoided making any major changes to Diet Coke. That is because of super fans like Trump who are dedicated to the soda as is.
"I don't think we're likely to change Diet Coke," Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said in a call with reporters in October. "It has a large following."
While Coca-Cola has found success with its Coke Zero Sugar reformulation, Diet Pepsi's struggles proves changing a drink's recipe can cause even larger problems. That's especially true when a brand has a cult follow, like Diet Coke does.
So, as Coca-Cola works to find a way to turn the brand around, Diet Coke is banking on loyal fans drinking dozens of cans of cola a week — including, apparently, the president.
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